Shaking   the   foundations   of   quality?   Why   ‘childcare’   policy   must   not   lead   to   poor-­‐quality   early   education   and  care   Cathy  Nutbrown     March  2013  
  On   the   19th   of   June   2012   following   a   rigorous   public   consultation,   I   published   my   government-­‐commissioned   report   ‘Foundations   for   Quality’,   an   independent   review   of   early   education   and   childcare   qualifications   in   England.     I   began  my  report  with  the  statement  that:    ‘Learning   begins   from   birth,   and   high   quality   early   education   and   care   has   the   potential   to   make   an   important   and   positive   impact   on   the   learning,   development   and   wellbeing   of   babies   and  young  children,  in  their  daily  lives  and  the  longer  term’.        

  Conscious   of   the   century-­‐long   tradition   in   England   of   high   quality   early   education   through   nursery   schools,   I   noted   the   developments   to   improve   quality   and   include   provision   for   very   young   children   that   had   occurred   in   recent   decades,   and   I   said   that   ‘every   child   in   home   and   group   settings   today   deserves  the  very  best  early  education  and  care’.  It  was  on  this  principle  that  I   based  my  Review  and  my  final  recommendations.       If  it  seems  obvious,  it  is  still  necessary  to  reassert  that  what  matters  most  in   the   early   years   workforce   is   the   quality   of   the   experiences   they   can   offer   young   children.   I   made   clear   my   view   that   early   years   carers   and   educators   are   professionals   who   themselves   need   continually   to   develop   their   own   knowledge,  skills  and  understanding.  They  need  to  be  confident  in  their  own   work   with   children   and   in   engaging   with   parents   and   professionals,   such   as   health   visitors   and   social   workers.   I   wrote   a   report   that   I   hoped   would   give   good  advice  to  Government  about  the  importance  of  the  people  who  make  up   the   diverse   early   years   workforce   having   opportunities   to   progress   in   their   careers,   and   to   become   effective   pedagogical   leaders   who   understand   the   learning   and   development   needs   of   children   and   can   enhance   and   extend   teaching  and  learning  opportunities  whatever  form  the  provision  takes.     In  my  report  I  set  out  and  justified  recommendations  to  improve  the  quality  of   early  education  and  care  for  young  children  so  that:   • every   child   is   able   to   experience   high-­‐quality   care   and   education   whatever  type  of  home  or  group  setting  they  attend;   • early   years   staff   have   a   strong   professional   identity,   take   pride   in   their   work,   and   are   recognised   and   valued   by   parents,   other   professionals   and   society  as  a  whole;   • high  quality  early  education  and  care  is  led  by  well-­‐qualified  early  years   practitioners;   and   the   importance   of   childhood   is   understood,   respected   and  valued.   (Foundations  for  Quality  2012:10)  
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


  My   recommendations   were   widely   welcomed   by   the   sector   and   I   received   many   messages   of   support   from   key   agencies,   organisations,   and   individuals   involved   in   early   childhood   education   and   care.       There   were   clear   indications   that   providers   from   private,   independent,   voluntary   and   state-­‐maintained   sectors,   childminders   and   parents   were   in   broad   agreement   with   my   recommendations   and   were   looking   forward   to   a   positive   response   from   Government.       I   knew   that   my   aspirations   were   achievable   because   I   had   seen   them   happening   in   so   many   settings.   However,   they   did   not   always   happen,   and   children’s   preschool   experiences   varied   too   much.   Therefore   I   made   recommendations  to  Government  to  ensure  the  following:   • An   increase   in   the   number   of   qualified   teachers   with   specialist   early   years   knowledge   who   lead   practice   in   settings   who   -­‐   working   directly   with  babies,  young  children,  and  their  parents,  -­‐  demonstrably  use  their   pedagogical   expertise   to   support   young   children’s   learning,   play   and   development.   • The  recognition  of  Early  Years  teachers  who  lead,  and  are  supported  by,   an  effective  team  of  early  years  practitioners,  qualified  at  a  minimum  of   Level   3,   with   all   staff   taking   professional   pride   in   their   work,   and   continually  seeking  to  extend  and  develop  their  knowledge  and  skills.   • The   requirement   that   those   who   are   working   towards   early   education   and   childcare   qualifications   should   be   taught   and   supported   by   qualified   and   knowledgeable   tutors,   who   are   themselves   experienced   in   the   early   years.  Tutors,  as  much  as  the  practitioners  in  the  setting,  must  take  pride   in   their   professional   development,   and   regularly   engage   in   practice   in   settings,  ensuring  their  skills  and  pedagogy  are  current.   • That   only   those   candidates   who   are   confident   and   capable   in   their   literacy  and  numeracy  are  admitted  to  these  level  3  courses;  in  parallel,   Level   3   qualifications   must   be   rigorous   and   challenging,   requiring   high   quality  experiences  in  placements,  giving  students  time  to  reflect  on  and   improve  their  own  practice.   • The   demonstration   of   a   rigour   of   qualification   such   that   employers   can   have  confidence  that  those  who  hold  a  recognised  qualification  have  the   necessary   depth   and   breadth   of   knowledge   and   experience   to   be   ready   for  work  in  the  setting.   • The  requirement  on  employers  to  support  new  members  of  staff,  and  take   the   time   to   induct   them   to   the   setting   and   their   role,   and   ensure   they   have  this  ongoing  support  and  mentoring  in  place  for  at  least  their  first   six  months.    (Foundations  for  Quality  2012:11)     So  why,  on  29th  January  2013,  when  the  document   ‘More  Great  Childcare’  was   published,   was   I   not   delighted   that   the   Government   was   announcing   the   introduction   of   Early   Years   Teachers,   enhanced   entry   requirements   to   level   three  qualifications  and  a  stronger  level  three  qualification?         Why?   Because,   as   they   say,   ‘the   devil   is   in   the   detail’.       As   I   read   beyond   the   headlines   of   the   government   proposals   I   realised   that   most   of   my  
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


recommendations  had,  in  effect,  been  rejected.    Turning  to  the  Appendix  of  the   ‘More  Great  Childcare’  document,  the  disappointing  response  is  only  too  clear.     Whilst  I  felt  that  my  recommendations  taken  together,  would  enhance  quality,   I   am   not   at   all   convinced   that   accepting     just   five,   and   tinkering   with   many   others,   will   achieve   the   outcomes   for   children   and   for   their   professional   practitioners  that  many  had  hoped  for.    The  table  below  shows  that,  of  my  19   recommendations  it  has  been  proposed  that:   5    are    ‘Accepted’   7  are  ‘Accepted  in  principle’   3  are  ‘Still  under  consideration  and  subject  to  consultation’   1  is  noted  to  ‘Keep  under  review’   2  are  ‘Not  accepted’   1  is  noted  as  ‘No  action  for  Government’.     Table   1       Nutbrown   Review   recommendations   and   Government   Response       (from  appendix  to  ‘More  Great  Childcare’)    
Nutbrown  Review  recommendation  in   Foundations  for  Quality  (2012)   Government  response  and  recommended   action     More  Great  Childcare  (2013)  

Recommendation  1     Accepted.     The  Government  should  continue  to  specify  the   Teaching  Agency  will  consult  on  revised  set  of   qualifications  that  are  suitable  for  staff  operating  ‘full  and  relevant’  criteria  and  proposals  for  the   within  the  EYFS,  and  the  Teaching  Agency   Early  Years  Educator.   should  develop  a  more  robust  set  of  ‘full  and   (MGC  p  41)   relevant’  criteria  to  ensure  qualifications   promote  the  right  content  and  pedagogical   processes.  These  criteria  should  be  based  on  the   proposals  set  out  in  this  report.                                (FfQ  p   29)   Recommendation  2   Accepted  in  principle,     All  qualifications  commenced  from  1  September   but  timescale  changed  to  September  2014.  The   2013  must  demonstrate  that  they  meet  the  new   Teaching  Agency’s  ‘full  and  relevant’   ‘full  and  relevant’  criteria  when  being   consultation  will  state  that  we  will  ensure  that   considered  against  the  requirements  of  the   new  Early  Years  Educator  Level  3  qualifications   EYFS.                    (FfQ  p  29)   will  be  in  place  from  2014.                                                                               (MGC  p  41)   Recommendation  3   The  previously  articulated  plan  to  move  to  a   single  early  years  qualification  should  be   abandoned.   (FfQ  p  29)   Accepted.     The  Teaching  Agency’s  ‘full  and  relevant’   consultation  will  state  this  plan  will  not   happen.                                                                        (MGC  p  41)  

Recommendation  4   Accepted.     The  Government  should  consider  the  best  way  to  The  ‘Early  Years  Educator’  title  will  offer  a   badge  qualifications  that  meet  the  new  ‘full  and   recognised  badge  of  quality  for  qualifications   relevant’  criteria  so  that  people  can  recognise   which  meet  the  new  ‘full  and  relevant’  criteria.                   under  what  set  of  ‘full  and  relevant’  criteria  a   (MGC  p  41)   qualification  has  been  gained.                                            (FfQ  p   29)  

Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?    

©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


Recommendation  5   Still  under  consideration  and  subject  to   The  EYFS  requirements  should  be  revised  so   consultation.                                                    (MGC  p  41)   that,  by  September  2022,  all  staff  counting  in  the   staff:child  ratios  must  be  qualified  at  level  3.                                     (FfQ  p  34)   Recommendation  6   Still  under  consideration  and  subject  to   The  EYFS  requirements  should  be  revised  so   consultation.                                                    (MGC  p  42)   that,  from  September  2013,  a  minimum  of  50  per   cent  of  staff  in  group  settings  need  to  possess  at   least  a  ‘full  and  relevant’  level  3  to  count  in  the   staff:child  ratios.   (FfQ  p  34)   Recommendation  7   Still  under  consideration  and  subject  to   The  EYFS  requirements  should  be  revised  so   consultation.                                                      (MGC  p  42)   that,  from  September  2015,  a  minimum  of  70  per   cent  of  staff  in  group  settings  need  to  possess  at   least  a  ‘full  and  relevant’  level  3  to  count  in  the   staff:child  ratios.   (FfQ  p  34)   Recommendation  8     Accepted  in  principle.     Level  2  English  and  mathematics  should  be  entry  The  Teaching  Agency’s  ‘full  and  relevant’   requirements  to  level  3  early  education  and   consultation  will  set  out  that  entrants  to  Level  3   childcare  courses.   Early  Years  Educator  courses  will  be  expected   (FfQ  p  34)   to  have  secured  at  least  a  C  grade  in  GCSE   English  and  mathematics.  We  will  consult  on   proposals  on  how  this  might  be  made  a   requirement,  including  by  inserting  a   requirement  for  English  and  maths  GCSEs  into   the  Early  Years  Foundation  Stage  Statutory   Framework,  in  due  course.                                      (MGC  p  42)   Recommendation  9   Tutors  should  be  qualified  to  a  higher  level  than   the  course  they  are  teaching.   (FfQ  p  40)   Accepted  in  principle.     DfE  will  work  across  Government  (i.e.  with  BIS)   to  help  Further  Education  and  other  post-­‐16   providers  to  promote  good  practice  in  this  area.                             (MGC  p  42)  

Recommendation  10   Accepted  in  principle.     All  tutors  should  have  regular  continuing   DfE  will  work  across  Government  (i.e.  with  BIS)   professional  development  and  contact  with  early  to  help  Further  Education  and  other  post-­‐16   years  settings.  Colleges  and  training  providers   providers  to  promote  good  practice  in  this  area.                           should  allow  sufficient  time  for  this.                                                    (MGC                          p         4    2)             (FfQ  p  40)   Recommendation  11   Only  settings  that  are  rated  ‘Good’  or   ‘Outstanding’  by  Ofsted  should  be  able  to  host   students  on  placement.   (FfQ  p  42)   Accepted  in  principle.     DfE  will  work  across  Government  (i.e  with  BIS)   to  help  Further  Education  and  other  post-­‐16   providers  to  ensure  that  placements  are   normally  only  in  settings  that  are  rated  ‘Good’   or  ‘Outstanding’  by  Ofsted.                                                                               (MGC  p  42)    

Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?    

©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


Recommendation  12   Colleges  and  training  providers  should  look   specifically  at  the  setting’s  ability  to  offer   students  high  quality  placements.   (FfQ  p  42)  

Accepted.     DfE  will  work  across  Government  (i.e.  with  BIS)   to  help  Further  Education  and  other  post-­‐16   providers  to  promote  good  practice  in  this  area.                         (MGC  p  43)  

Recommendation  13   Keep  under  review.     The  Department  for  Education  should  conduct   The  Teaching  Agency’s  ‘full  and  relevant’   research  on  the  number  of  BME  staff  at  different   consultation  will  seek  views  on  whether  or  not   qualification  levels,  and  engage  with  the  sector   the  proposals  for  the  content  and  standard  of   to  address  any  issues  identified.                        (FfQ  p  49)   new  qualifications  have  equality  implications,   and  we  will  consider  including  questions  in   future  Childcare  and  Early  Years  Provider   surveys.                                                                      (MGC  p  43)   Recommendation  14   Newly  qualified  practitioners  starting  in  their   first  employment  should  have  mentoring  for  at   least  the  first  six  months.  If  the  setting  is  rated   below  ‘Good’,  this  mentoring  should  come  from   outside.                    (FfQ  p  51)   Accepted  in  principle.     Settings  should  consider  how  they  can  put   mentoring  arrangements  in  place  for  new  front   line  staff.                                                (MGC  p  43)  

Recommendation  15   Accepted  in  principle     A  suite  of  online  induction  and  training  modules   but  no  action  by  Government.   should  be  brought  together  by  the  Government,    Rather  the  sector/settings  should  seek  to  draw   that  can  be  accessed  by  everyone  working  in   this  together.   early  education  and  childcare.  (FfQ  p  53)   (MGC  p  43)     Recommendation  16     A  new  early  years  specialist  route  to  QTS,   specialising  in  the  years  from  birth  to  seven,   should  be  introduced,  starting  from  September   2013.                                                        (FfQ  p  59)       Not  accepted.     We  agree  with  Professor  Nutbrown  that  there   is  a  need  to  transform  the  status  of  the   profession  and  we  want  more  high  quality   graduates  to  consider  a  career  in  early   education.  We  do  not,  however,  consider  a   route  to  the  award  of  QTS  is  necessary  to  do   this.  We  will  introduce  Early  Years  Teachers   who  will  be  specialists  in  early  childhood   development  trained  to  work  with  babies  and   young  children  from  birth  to  five.  The  training   route  and  the  new  Teachers’  Standards  (Early   Years)  will  build  on  the  strengths  of  the  EYPS   programme.  Early  Years  Teacher  Status  will  be   seen  as  the  equivalent  to  QTS,  therefore  entry   requirements  to  Early  Years  Teacher  training   courses  will  be  the  same  as  entry  to  primary   teacher  training.  This  change  will  give  one  title   of  ‘teacher’  across  the  early  years  and  schools   sectors  which  will  increase  status  and  public   recognition.                                                                            (MGC  p  43)  

Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?    

©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


Recommendation  17   Any  individual  holding  Early  Years  Professional   Status  (EYPS)  should  be  able  to  access  routes  to   obtain  QTS  as  a  priority.   (FfQ  p  61)    

Not  accepted.     Those  with  EYPS  are  graduates  already  trained   specifically  to  work  with  babies  and  children   from  birth  to  five  years.  Existing  Early  Years   Professionals  will  in  future  be  seen  as  the   equivalent  of  Early  Years  Teachers.  Early  Years   Professionals  will  therefore  not  need  to  obtain   QTS  to  increase  their  status,  although  routes   are  already  available  to  QTS  if  they  wish  to  take   them.                                                                          (MGC  p  43)  

Recommendation  18   Accepted.     I  recommend  that  Government  considers  the   We  will  introduce  Early  Years  Teachers  to  lead   best  way  to  maintain  and  increase  graduate   the  further  improvements  in  quality  we  want  to   pedagogical  leadership  in  all  early  years  settings.  see.                  W           e        w   ill  set  out  funding  arrangements  for   (FfQ  p  62)   Early  Years  Teachers  in  due  course.                                                                   (MGC  p  43)   Recommendation  19   No  action  for  Government.   I  am  not  recommending  that  the  Government     impose  a  licensing  system  on  the  early  years   (MGC  p  44)   sector.  However,  the  Government  should   consider  supporting  a  sector-­‐led  approach,  if  an   affordable  and  sustainable  one  emerges  with   widespread  sector  support.                                          (FfQ  p  63)  

  The   decision   to   accept   only   five   of   my   recommendations   needs   some   examination  in  the  context  of  other  measures  put  forward  by  Government  on   29th   January   2013,   most   specifically   the   plan   to   reduce   the   number   of   staff   working  with  groups  of  very  young  children.     So   I   want   in   this   paper   to   unpack   some   of   the   detail.     Government   proposes   that  Early  Years  Teachers  will  be  introduced  and  given  a  training  that  covers   the  years  birth  to  five  (not  birth  to  seven  as  I  recommended).    They  will  not   follow   a   Post   Graduate   Certificate   in   Education,   not   be   awarded   Qualified   Teacher  Status,  and  not  undertake  a  mentored  Newly  Qualified  Teacher  year.     In  my  review  I  said:   A   typical   route   to   the   early   years   specialist   QTS   will   be   an   early   years   degree   (Early   Childhood   Studies   being   an   appropriate   example)   followed   by  a  PGCE.  Many  EYPs  will  already  hold  early  years  specialism  at  degree   level,  so  should  be  able  to  gain  QTS  after  a  PGCE  course.                                (Foundations  for  Quality  2012:  60,  5.23)       But  the  early  years  teachers  now  proposed  by  the  Government  will  not  have   QTS,  nor  will  they  follow  a  PGCE  course,  in  other  words,  they  will  not  have  the   same   status   as   teachers   of   children   over   five   years   of   age.     One   of   the   many   email   messages   I   have   received   recently   came   from   a   teacher   working   with   three  to  five  year  olds  who  wrote:   My   main   concern   is   with   the   proposal   for   the   introduction   of   Early   Years   Teachers   -­‐   if   EYT's   are   required   to   meet   the   teaching   standards   expected   of   classroom   teachers   why   are   they   not   to   be   awarded   QTS?   This   in   my   view   will   not   raise   the   status   of   graduate   practitioners   in   the   early   years   field  as  they  will  not  have  the  same  pay  and  conditions  as  those  holding  
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


QTS.    Will  the  introduction  of  EYT's  mean  that  school  settings  no  longer   need  to  employ  a  teacher  with  QTS  to  lead  nursery  and  reception  classes?     Someone  with  Early  Years  Professional  Status  wrote  to  me  saying:     I   am   SO   pleased   that   I   can   now   be   given   QTS   and   work   in   schools,   at   last   parity  with  teachers!       Sadly  this  practitioner,  like  others,  had  misunderstood  (or  been  misled  by)  the   government  headline.  Because  my  recommendation  on  QTS  was  not  accepted,   the  hoped  for  parity  with  primary  and  secondary  school  teachers  will  not  be   realised.     We   need   some   more   answers   here   to   be   assured   that   this   is   not   simply   ‘changing   the   label   on   the   tin’.     Are   Early   Years   Professionals   simply   being   renamed?   If   so,   is   this   not   insulting?     (To   EYPS   ,   to   existing   early   years   teachers  -­‐  of  whom  there  are  many,  and  indeed  with  QTS-­‐  to  children,  and  to   parents?).  Will  this  name  change  without  any  other  apparent  change,  mislead   parents?   And   is   this   not   insulting   and   misleading   to   those   who   undertake   Early   Years   Teacher   courses?   How   would   it   be   if   the   reverse   was   the   case   and   it   was   decided,   at   relatively   short   notice,   with   no   justification,   to   rename   teachers   in   secondary   schools   ‘Secondary   Years   Professionals’?   It   would   not   work,  and  I  sincerely  believe  that    it  would  similarly  fail  in  the  early  years.     So  how  will  the  Early  Years  Teacher  feel  when  told  that  she  or  he  cannot  teach   children   in   Year   1   because   they   are   not   sufficiently   qualified   to   do   so?     And   how   will   they   feel   about   the   investments   they   have   made   in   their   qualifications   when   they   realise   they   cannot   achieve   the   kinds   of   promotion   opportunities   open   to   teachers   of   older   children?     And   why   is   the   title   ‘teacher’   being   used   to   mean   something   quite   different   from   the   commonly   understood,   established   and   accepted   meaning?   This   reaches   deep   into   the   heart  of  the  culture  and  nomenclature  of  UK  practice.     Since   the   first   introduction   of   Early   Years   Professional   Status,   those   who   worked   hard   to   obtain   that   status   have   been   questioning   the   lack   of   parity   with  QTS.  In  my  review  I  sought  to  end  the  disparity  that  many  people  holding   EYPS  were  concerned  about.  It  seems  now  that  one  form  of  inequality  is  now   to  be  replaced  with  another.  Yet  again,  those  who  work  with  young  children   are  offered  a  lesser  status  (and,  we  should  realistically  anticipate,  poorer  pay   and   conditions   than   those   who   work   with   older   children)   but   a   title   that   makes  them  appear  to  have  the  same  role  and  status.       Another  email  message  asked  me:     What  is  the  difference  between  a  'teacher'  and  an  'educator'?     So,  what  is  the  difference  between  a  ‘teacher’  and  an  ‘educator’?  Do  teachers   not   ‘educate,   and   care,   and   support,   and   guide,   and   observe,   and   talk   with   parents’?  And  do  not  early  years  educators  do  those  things  too?    The  Rumbold   Report  in  1989,  suggested  that  all  who  lived  and  worked  with  young  children   (including   parents,   childminders   and   volunteers   and   professionals   in   groups   settings)  should  be  known  by  the  collective  term  ‘educator’  for  they  all  had  a   part   to   play   in   young   children’s   early   education   (which   also   involved   ‘caring’).      
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


Now   ‘educator’   is   being   redefined   from   a   generic   and   conceptually   universal   term  referring  to  all  those  in  working  with  young  children,  to  a  delimited  and   specific  qualification  and  role.       Childminders   have   battled   long   and   hard   to   be   recognised   as   equal   to   their   peers   in   daycare   and   pre-­‐school   settings,   and   my   recommendations   with   regard   to   childminders   appear   to   have   fallen   on   stony   ground.     There   is   no   planned  requirement  for  childminders  to  hold  any  formal  qualifications  even   though   the   number   of   children   they   can   work   with   seems   set   to   rise.   What   reasonable   justification   is   there   for   treating   part   of   the   workforce   –   also   working  within  the  Early  Years  Foundation  Stage  –  differently  from  the  rest?     So,   yet   again,   babies,   toddlers,   young   children,   and   their   families,   have   to   be   content   with   something   different,   something   that   is   ‘not   quite’   the   same   in   status   as   that   offered   to   older   pupils   and   students   in   the   education   system,   something   confused   and   confusing.   In   England,   the   Early   Years   Foundation   Stage   (birth   to   five)   marks   the   beginning   of   the   education   system.   The   question   as   to   why   those   working   with   children   in   these   challenging   and   complex   years   of   early   development   and   of   learning,   should   be   less   well   qualified   and   afforded   a   lower   professional   status   than   those   teaching   older   children  remains  unanswered.     So,  yet  again,  an  opportunity  truly  to  value  the  thousands  of  women  and  the   small   number   of   men   who   dedicate   energy,   intellect   and   commitment   to   providing  the  best  they  can  for  our  youngest  children  is  to  be  dissipated,  and  -­‐   plus   ca   change...   -­‐   they   are   to   content   themselves   with   something   less   than   their  colleagues  working  with  older  children.    And  they  are  also  to  be  asked  to   do  this  in  a  context  of  diminishing  support    (as  Local  Authority  responsibilities   for   this   disappear)   and   increased   inspection   (with   OFSTED   being   the   sole   arbiter   of   quality).     Measurement   and   inspection   alone   will   not   enhance   quality   for   young   children;   support,   continuing   professional   development   and   time  are  needed  to  do  that.       In   the   last   few   weeks   the   question   most   often   posed   to   me   has   been:   do  you   think  changing  ratios  will  make  a  difference  if  staff  are  better  qualified?  This  is   the  question  that  is  vexing  many  parents,  early  years  practitioners,  key  early   years   agencies   and   organisations,   and   Further/Higher   Education   institutions   and  tutors.    If  the  small  children  whose  early  years  settings  could  be  affected   understood  what  was  going  on,  I  think  they  too  would  be  worried.  This  is  my   answer:       The   positive   impact   of   raising   the   quality   of   level   3   qualifications   to   make   them  stronger  and  more  appropriate  for  work  with  young  children  and  their   families  from  birth  to  five  will  be  weakened  if  ratios  are  weakened.     Reducing   the   number   of   adults   available   to   work   with   very   young   children   will   dilute   any  positive  effects  on  the  quality  of  the  experiences  children  could  expect  to   receive.    When  I  made  my  recommendations,  I  made  them  taking  into  account   the   context   in   which   I   undertook   my   Review.   To   change   the   context,   yet   use   the   hoped-­‐for   enhanced   quality   of   staff   as   a   justification   for   reducing   the   number  of  adults  to  children  in  a  setting,  makes  no  sense  at  all.  I  made  it  clear  
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


in  my  Review  that,  though  with  properly  qualified  teachers  (trained  to  teach   children   aged   from   birth   to   seven,   and   with   Qualified   Teacher   Status)   it   might   be  sensible  to  look  at  the  ratios  for  working  with  children  aged  three  to  five,   that   ratios   for   working   with   younger   children   should   not   be   tampered   with.     I   said:   I   do   not   think   there   is   any   case   for   changing   the   ratios   for   babies   and  two-­‐year  olds,  but  I  think  it  is  worth  exploring  whether  better-­‐ qualified   staff   could   reasonably   work   with   more   three-­‐   and   four-­‐   year-­‐olds   (as   is   the   case   for   teachers   in   nursery   and   reception   classes).           (Foundations  for  Quality,  2012:  69,  6.23)     I   fear   that   any   positive   effects   for   children   that   might   have   come   about   through  enhancement  in  qualifications  will  be  cancelled  out  because  there  will   be  too  few  early  years  professionals  working  with  them.       So,   do   I   think   changing   the   ratios   will   make   a   difference   if   people   are   better   qualified?    The  difference  will  be  too  few  adults  with  too  many  little  children;   too   few   moments   in   the   day   for   a   toddler   to   have   uninterrupted   time   with   their  key  person,  and  too  few  early  years  practitioners  to  talk  and  work  with   parents.     Who   will   suffer   most?   The   youngest,   most   vulnerable   children.   Their   parents   who   will   know   that   their   little   children   will   get   less   attention,   less   conversation,   less   holding,   than   they   need.   And   with   them,   their   early   years   practitioners  who  –  though  they  may  be  well  qualified  –  are  unable  to  provide   the   best   that   they   can   because   they   have   had   their   greatest   resource   (their   time  for  children)  reduced.  Here  is  the  nub:  there  is  nothing  relaxing  about  the   proposal  to  ‘relax’  ratios.    It  will  lead  to  stress  –  for  children,  for  parents  and   for   early   years   practitioners   (whatever   their   title   or   qualification).   Practitioners   will   continue   to   do   their   best   knowing   that   it   is   not   the   best   that   they   could   do   (if   they   were   not   working   with   too   many   children).     Trading   staff:child   ratios   for   higher   qualified   staff   is   nonsense.   Watering   down   ratios   will   threaten   quality.   Childcare   may   be   cheaper,   but   children   will   be   footing   the   bill.     High   quality   early   years   provision   in   home   and   group   settings   means   high   quality   staff   and   a   staff:child   balance   that   can   positively   support   young   children’s  development,  learning  and  well  being.     At   the   heart   of   early   childhood   education   and   care   are   children   and   their   families   and,   again,   it   may   be   a   truism   but   it   is   worth   reiterating   that   no   changes  in  policy  should  be  made  unless  they  are  demonstrably  beneficial  to   them.    It  is  not  possible  to  provide  good  foundations  for  life  and  learning  for   the   youngest   children   on   the   cheap.   But   it   should   be   possible,   with   political   will,  to  provide  quality  experiences  for  children  that  are  affordable.  When  the   budgets   are   set   the   question   to   be   asked   is   not   ‘Can   we   afford   high   quality   early  education  and  care  with  well  qualified  professionals?’  Rather,  when  we   take   account   of   the   strongly   evidenced   benefits   of   high   quality   and   appropriately  caring  early  learning  experiences  to  later  life,  the  question  to  be   asked  is    ‘Can  we  afford   not  to  provide  high  quality  early  education  and  care   with  well  qualified  professionals?’  I  do  not  mind  sounding  like  a  Cassandra  if  I   warn  passionately  that  later  generations    of  politicians  will  count  with  regret  

Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?    

©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013  


the   social   and   economic   costs   of   insufficient   investment   in   early   years   provision.       As  I  said  in  my  Review:   ‘Babies  and  young  children  must  have  the  very  best  early  education   and   care.   If   those   working   with   young   children   have   the   necessary   skills,  knowledge  and  understanding,  they  have  the  potential  to  offer   the   formative   experience   all   young   children   deserve,   supported   by   the  significant  Government  investment  in  the  early  years.’             (Foundations  for  Quality  2012:  10)     Current   proposals   will   shake   the   foundations   of   quality   provision   young   children.   Watering   down   ratios,   regardless   of   the   level   of   qualifications   held   by   staff   is   likely   to   lead   to   worse,   not   ‘great’,   childcare   and   will   undermine   intentions  to  provide  quality  early  learning  experiences.     I   want   to   thank   the   many   who   contributed   to   my   Review,   and   those   who   welcomed   its   outcomes,   for   their   contributions   and   their   continued   commitment   to   getting   this   right   for   young   children.     I   hope   they,   and   many   more  will  read  the  detail  of  ‘More  Great  Childcare’  with  a  careful  eye,  and  will   continue   to   alert   Government   to   any   concerns   they   have   about   the   weakening   of   ratios,   the   watering   down   of   good   quality   qualifications,   and   the   implementing  of  a  two-­‐tier  status  for  ‘teachers’.    Inequality  has  deeply  adverse   effects   on   society,   and   particularly   those   who   are   most   vulnerable.   High   quality  early  education  and  care  provides  one  effective  means  of  combatting   those   inequalities.   Young   children   must   not   bear   the   costs   of   Government   getting   this   wrong.   Put   most   simply:   the   foundations   of   quality   are   being   severely   shaken,   and   the   price   of   quality   in   the   early   years   is   surely   a   price   worth  paying;  and  in  terms  of  the  life-­‐course  this  can  only    be  a  solid,  sound   investment  for  future  generations.       Professor  Cathy  Nutbrown     The  School  of  Education   The  University  of  Sheffield   +44  (0)  114  222  8139     References  
Foundations  for  Quality: The  independent  review  of  early  education  and  childcare   qualifications      Final  Report      (June  2012)        Department  for  Education care/Page1/DFE-­‐00068-­‐2012   More  great  childcare:  Raising  quality  and  giving  parents  more  choice    (January  2013)   Department  for  Education   standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-­‐00002-­‐2013   The  Rumbold  Report  (1990)    Starting  with  Quality    The  Report  of  the  Committee  of  Inquiry   into  the  Quality  of  the  Educational  Experience  offered  to  3  and  4  year  olds,  chaired  by   Angela  Rumbold  CBE  MP      London:  Her  Majesty's  Stationery  Office  1990  

  For  further  information  please  contact:  Paul  Mannion,  Media  Relations   Officer,  on  0114  2229851  or  email          
Shaking  the  Foundations  of  Quality?     ©  Cathy  Nutbrown  The  University  of  Sheffield,  March  2013   10  

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